NCAA

Christian McCaffrey to skip Stanford's bowl game to prepare for draft

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AP

Christian McCaffrey to skip Stanford's bowl game to prepare for draft

STANFORD -- Christian McCaffrey is done playing college football.

The star running back announced on Twitter on Monday he will not play in the Sun Bowl for No. 16 Stanford on Dec. 30 when the Cardinal (9-3) face North Carolina (8-4) in El Paso, Texas.

"Very tough decision, but I have decided not to play in the Sun Bowl so I can begin my draft prep immediately," McCaffrey said. He thanked his teammates for their support. "It means a lot to me. Go Cardinal!"

McCaffrey is the second prominent player to make such a decision. LSU running back Leonard Fournette has said he will not play in the Citrus Bowl to focus on the draft.

McCaffrey said last month he would be skipping his senior season. He was the Heisman Trophy runner-up in 2015 as a sophomore when he set the NCAA record for all-purpose yards in a season.

"For three years Christian has not only been a great player, but a great teammate as well," Stanford coach David Shaw said in a statement. "We wish him great success at the next level, as we continue our preparation for the Sun Bowl."

This season, McCaffrey missed a game against Notre Dame with an undisclosed injury, but finished the season strong. He had at least 135 yards rushing in his final five games and finished the season with 1,603 yards on the ground and 13 touchdowns.

"Obviously, there's a little disappointment, but I don't think it takes away from the fact we've still got two pretty good football teams that are going to play," Sun Bowl executive director Bernie Olivas said. "Yeah, it would have been great to have a prolific runner like Christian McCaffrey going against a prolific passer like (North Carolina quarterback) Mitch Trubisky, but I totally understand where he's coming from. I still hope he makes the trip and enjoys the festivities we have for the teams."

The 6-foot, 200-pound McCaffrey has been one of the busiest ball carriers in college football over the last two seasons. He has 672 touches from scrimmage (590 rushes, 82 receptions) and another 76 kick and punt returns.
 

Quinnen Williams, possible Raiders draft target, misses mark in Alabama's loss

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USATSI

Quinnen Williams, possible Raiders draft target, misses mark in Alabama's loss

SANTA CLARA -- Quinnen Williams proved Monday night that he can talk a big game, even if he doesn’t play one.

The Alabama defensive tackle, whom many project to be a top-five pick if he leaves school for the 2019 NFL draft, didn’t exactly show out in the College Football Playoff National Championship at Levi’s Stadium. The redshirt sophomore finished with just four total tackles (three solo, one assist) and 1.5 for loss.

Williams went relatively unnoticed in Clemson’s 44-16 rout, except for this first-quarter stop that showcased his power.

Williams, who entered the game tied for second on the Crimson Tide with eight sacks this season, didn’t register any noticeable pass rush -- to be fair, no one on Alabama did -- as the Tigers handily won the title.

Still, Williams wasn’t that impressed by what he saw from the now-national champions.

“They really didn’t do anything that caught us off guard,” Williams said. “We knew everything that was coming. They ran zone. They ran go routes, 50-50 balls.

“[Clemson QB] Trevor Lawrence threw the ball, and it looked like he put it on the money. He didn’t drop dimes, none of that. He threw it up, and the receivers made plays. All the respect to the receivers.”

While Williams later called Lawrence “good,” his comments were reminiscent of his pre-Orange Bowl words on Kyler Murray, when he smartly stopped himself from criticizing Oklahoma’s Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback. Williams showed no such restraint this time, and while you could chalk it up to the hurt of losing a national title game, NFL teams surely will ask him in pre-draft interviews about how he'll handle such situations.

As for his NFL draft status, Williams didn’t want to say much, claiming he really hadn’t thought about the possibility of turning pro after the season.

“I don’t know yet, man,” he said. “I got to go home, watch this film first, get with my teammates and let them know, man, everything.”

New Raiders general manager Mike Mayock, whose team has been linked to Williams with the No. 4 overall pick in numerous mock drafts, saw the defensive tackle in person Monday. Whether he liked what he saw or heard remains to be seen over the next three months.

DeAndre Hopkins explains how Clemson keeps producing NFL-level talent

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AP

DeAndre Hopkins explains how Clemson keeps producing NFL-level talent

SANTA CLARA -- The Clemson Tigers came into Monday night's College Football Playoff National Championship with a shorter list of 2019 NFL Draft talents than their counterparts, the Alabama Crimson Tide. But not if you ask some notable alumni.

To Houston Texans All-Pro wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins, the next wave of NFL stars are Tigers.

“The way they prepare here at Clemson, the strength and condition program, Joey Batson and Larry Greenlee do a good job of getting those guys ready for the next level," Hopkins told NBC Sports Bay Area after Clemson's stunning 44-16 blowout win in the title game at Levi's Stadium. "I think they’re definitely ready for the next level."

Clemson has produced 29 picks in the last five NFL drafts. The last time the program didn't have one of its players called come April was all the way back in 2002.

Watching with former Clemson stars Deshaun Watson, Vic Beasley Jr., Mike Williams, and Tajh Boyd, Hopkins witnessed one of the greatest teams in college football history. The 2018 Tigers accomplished a feat 121 years in the making, becoming the first FBS football team to go 15-0 or 16-0 since Penn in 1897.

“To me, it means a lot. I’m from Clemson, S.C., so to see this team do what they did … I think they are (the greatest ever)," Hopkins said. "I think they can be one of the best teams ever. Do it again next year, for sure.”

The last statement is what means the most to Hopkins and everyone else who once wore a Clemson Tigers jersey. Coach Dabo Swinney took to the podium immediately after the win and said he'll soak it all up now, but he'll get back to film Friday and start preparing for next season.

“I think this is the next dynasty," Hopkins said. "Deshaun Watson started it by winning a national championship here. I think those guys are going to continue it.

"I think they’re gonna be here next year and the year after.”

That's not hard to imagine, either.

Freshman quarterback Trevor Lawrence wowed with his precision passing, throwing for 347 yards and three touchdowns with no interceptions. His top target, Justyn Ross, made one-handed catches as a recently turned 19-year-old and finished the night with six catches for 148 yards and two TDs.

Clemson made its fourth playoff clash with Alabama look easy. The biggest names in the NFL know, too, that these could be the next stars of not only Saturdays but Sundays before we know it.